Going around   in   Amsterdam
Nederlandse versie updated  10-01-2008
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Always keep in mind that people here are much to tolerant to obey the traffic rules. And that's an understetement! Traffic accidents happen very frequently and many times tourists are the victims. Especially watch out for trams, taxi's, bicycles and lately those fast little scooters. In the first four months of the millennium five people were hit and killed by trams in Amsterdam. Three of them were tourists. The City Transportation Department may say that they should have been more careful, but that does not prevent the many pedestrians hit by trams on the busy Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal. And the heavy speed they drive there does not help, neither do the inconspicuous and inconstant colored fronts of the trams. That applies also to taxi's, especially as they drive fast and noiseless over the tramrails.
Be careful crossing in front of trams who standing still at the tramstops: taxi's overtake them on the left side and come therefore unexpectedly popping up from behind the trams.

tram with a 'smile'


on foot

The interesting parts of Amsterdam are centered in a small area which would be explored easily on foot, if there weren't that many obstacles on the way.

To follow the latest vision Schoon, Mooi en Ruimtelijk (clean, nice and spacy), the amount of traffic signs is kept as small as possible. While in other cities people may relaxed walking along the quays, this is not automatically always in Amsterdam. So should the pedestrian avoid the route from the Stopera (combination City Hall and the Opera) over the Blauwe Brug (Blue bridge) along the river Amstel towards Munt square: there is only a bikepath along the water and a dangerously narrow sidewalk on the other side of the street. The city government doesn't even hesitate to put safety and common sence aside for architectural but unnoticeable designs to divide the Amsterdam car-, bike- and walkways. For a nicer overall look. The unsuspecting pedestrian gets simply used to it.

Some streets in the Center are marked as pedestrian area, like the Kalverstraat and the Leidsestraat. However, bicycling through the Leidsestraat still will be 'gedoogd' (tolerated). This is because of the strong aggression by detained bicyclist towards controlling police. Recently this street underwent a facelift, but not a lot has been changed: the tram line annex taxi lane and the goods-unloading are still there, as well as the bit misleading designation voetgangersgebied (pedestrian area). Alder(wo)man Guusje ter Horst (Public Spaces Inner City) told on the local television station at5 that it was for the city a much too big of a risk to also legalise bicycling in the Leidsestraat: the street is too narrow for tram, pedestrian and bicyclist. At first she said that bicycling would be tolerated, like the Amsterdam tradition in the 1970-ties of total tolerance. Later the alderman changed that into looking for a possibility to actually "maintaining the law". At the end of 2001 there was a project held by the Amsterdam police: for two weeks the ones who insist on bicycling through the Leidsestraat were stopped and got warned not to do so. After that the police started fining them, by day, for over a week. To keep on doing that is not done here. Sequel actions are hold on such a scale that it is better to call them pin-prick-actions.

That's how the city shifts the responsibility towards the most vulnerable public space user, the unsuspecting pedestrian.
Tough for the tourist who is not so familiar with the Amsterdam understanding of the meaning of tolerance.

See also my  obstacles  in Amsterdam public space.

bikepath, no footpath


on wheels

Inspite of the unevenly laid pavement some choose for rollerskates. Even policemen did for a while, but they switched over to bicycles, trained by the American police.

the tram rails laid out all over the city are the cause for many accidents, sometimes fatal. Especially when wet. So, be careful.

Bicyclists normally never stop for ANY traffic lites, crosswalks or whatever comes in their way; They see sidewalks and footpaths as highways and usually come from all unexpected and forbidden directions. More than half has no lite. Not even on the early dark and gloomy winterdays.

Bicycle helmets are unknown. Mothers with children on front and back with no protection are bicycling through heavy traffic.

The explanation for our traffic behaviour may be our eternal positive thinking.

police on rollerskates 1   police on rollerskates 2



The city of Amsterdam has been built and, through centuries, extended on the basic principle of: transportation over water. This lead to her present sophisticated and characteristic layout. She calls herself not for nothing proudly the Venice of the North.

Freight transport through the Amsterdam waters is still very important. Even the body of a Boeing 747 went through the canals; it had to go end 2004 from Schiphol to Lelystad where it has been added to the collection of the Nationaal Luchtvaartmuseum Aviodrome. The journey was made especially attractive thanks to color changing lights litting up the giant body.

The canal boat is a safe and popular way to see the city. The best time to go is at sunset so you can see the houses in daylight and enjoy all the bridges lit up at the end of your tour. In the summer the leaves of the trees are blocking the best views: the tops of the canalhouses.

The museumboat is an expensive but pleasant and easy conveyance for museum hopping.

The waterbike is a relaxing experience in good weather. Many houseboat occupants however would like to throw the often loud talking and shouting water bicyclists out of the canals. People forget too easy that they are a guest in residential areas.  

The wopstapper, meaning the opstapper over water, should be mentioned here too. However, in this 'Venice of the North' is 'public transportation over water' completely not existing. Will it ever be possible to go from A to B over the canals by easy and effortable public transport? Or shall water conveyance costly being exploited as another trip-to-do by the tourist industry? Alas, to stop this violation of the Amsterdam canals requires a motivated city-council without ego-striving.

Chic touring in a gondola or with horse and carriage is nowadays possible too. This types of "public transportation", together with the many private little and big boats occupied with "it's holiday, all is fun" crowd sailing the innercity canals, only adds to the funpark image
      Disney ride in Amsterdam.

boeing 747 trip
boeing fotoos

boeing illuminated
boeing fotoos

gondola in canal


keitjes on the Dam
stratenmaker on  the Dam square
there is no end to it
less abled

Amsterdam is nót easy accessable for wheelchairs or people who have difficulty walking. Pavements and sidewalks are often very unevenly laid. Missing and sticking-up bricks are not uncommon. Parked bicycles blocking the whole sidewalks. The mostly narrow sidewalks and sometimes steep bridges don't make it easier. Not to mention the trash and the dog-faeces on your path.

Due to the repaving of the streets the kerbstones are disappearing from the streets of the innercity as well as other stadsdelen like Oost-Watergraafsmeer. This to great dissatisfaction of the blind and less-sighted who use them as an extremely important orientation point (eg think about the adjacent bicycle and car lanes).

There is always somewhere in the city center construction going on, especially during the tourists season. And as in the most part of Holland the "under construction"-cordons never consider the needs of pedestrian or disabled.

Most shops in the inner city are not accessable for wheelchairs thanks to the high doorsteps, eg the recently repaved Leidsestraat.

Even Dam square is, after some futile expensive attempts, is still inaccessible to wheelchairs, rollators and buggies: the cobbles and deep joints make the limbs just fall apart.

Since May 2003 a socalled wheelchair tram takes a tour through Amsterdam, filled with prebooked groups of visitors. It takes a touristic route and is clearly not meant for the less abled Amsterdammer or individual guest to our city.

shopping in a wheelchair
doing shopping






wheelchair tram
wheelchair tram

And now the good news

Parking for disabled: Since April 1st 2002, the handicapt parking permits an the free day-tickets are rescinded. When you are in the possession of an European Handicapt Card or a National Carpark ticket, you may park for free in whole Amsterdam. Be reminded to put your ticket clearly visible on the dashboard of your vehicle.
For the official and precise info see  toamsterdam.nl.

the Combino tram: This is the name of the new tram which slowly replaces the old ones. He is designed with a low floor and has a metal ramp onboard. A couple of unfolded baby carriages (yes, this is tolerated) however and the wheelchair area is full.

For more about
less abled policies
in Amsterdam, click
on the image
click here


public transportation

Amsterdam has built up a good public transportation network late 19th century, with regularly extending and new lines to keep moving people in this expanding city. Around 1875 the first horsetrams were appearing in Amsterdam. In the beginning the different lines were recognizable on the color of the wagons, but since the 1883 World Exhibition in Amsterdam the distinction is made by colored plates front and back, the socalled koersborden (destination board). This system is still in use. In August 1900 all horse tramlines were in a short time discontinued and replaced by electrical tramlines. This tramline network continued expanding to give this good public tranportation also to new built areas. Take a look at the old tramline network maps.
Nowadays trams, buses, sneltrams (fast-trams) and a single metroline bring you nearly to every place in the city from around seven-thirty till twelve (less in weekends). It is not free but affortable. But with quite some lacking in punctuality and service of the GVB. At nite there are some nightbuses.

The Eastline is the present metroline, which goes to Amsterdam Zuid-Oost (south-east) and became in 1977 into service. This line split up just before Zuid-Oost and embraces this city county more or less. Both ends are not connected with each other which makes going in between both metro-brances not that easy. This metro consist in the city of only 6 underground stops and the names of the first stations are accidently in alfabetical order:
  Centraal -- Nieuwmarkt -- Waterlooplein -- Weesperstr -- Wibautstr -- Amstelstation
Nieuwmarkt station tells its history by some interesting artwork. For some people it is a shock to see junkies openly using crack on the platforms.
The new metro line is now being built. It will run from north (Amsterdam noord) to south (World Trade Center). The digging has been started and produces several open construction sites for a number of years. Almost no consideration has been shown for pedestrians and people with less mobility. The total costs are now exceding the budget by far and will be later on millions more. Other essential maintenance and facilities for the benefit of the Amsterdammers will be prohibitive. Those things however are of no concern of the administrators. Extending the present metro line only direction north and optimizing the excellent public tranportation network gives little prestige and is therefore no option for the "Heeren van Aemsterdam".

The IJtram is the tramline direction east to the recent created island called IJburg. The Sneltram (line 51) goes first underground to Amstel station and after that high above ground southwards direction Amstelveen. At station Zuid (South) this fastline changes into a fast tram line with a couple of level road-junctions where schoolchildren are crossing, already with some tragic results. Besides the Sneltram also tram line 5 goes from Central Station direction Amstelveen, but above ground and via Leidseplein. The rest of the tramlines are mainly in use by the recent purchased trams, called Combino's. These have their pro and cons. For more see here beside behind the picture. Even the buses are recently all renewed.

Many stops of the (sometimes very fast going) trams are dangerously narrow but it is still the best public transport for roaming through the city. That is if you understand the complicated strip- and zone-system. Dodging fare is expensive when caught.

click for the
tram page
to the tram page

circle tram
In March 1997 tramline 20, or circle tram, is put into service. It runs only by day and takes a route along the most important musea and other interesting places for tourists. Amsterdammers use it regularly as a supplement to the existing lines.
There is always a conductor present who calles out the stops and the users are mainly tourists on the way to their cultural destination. Dodge fare or agression are here, contrary to the other lines, virtually unknown. This tramline may have a failing number of passengers a day (about 25,000 instead of 10,000), but sells probably the most tickets thanks to the tourists. Sadly the GVB (Amsterdam Public Transportation) is not impressed and tramline 20 is discontinued from September 23th, 2002. Especially the (not really that unimportant) art and culture minded guests visiting our city are punished by this.

The end of
circletram 20
tram 20
Click for a
photo overview

Since February 2001 the opstapper (meaning: getting on), a van with 8 sitting and 8 standing places, drives every ten minutes from Central Station via Brouwersgracht and Prinsengracht along the Amstel river to the cityhall on the Waterlooplein. Every day except sundays. From seven thirty till six thirty. Anne Frankhuis near the Westertower, the Prinsengracht-hospital and the Public library are on the route. There are no designated stops: put clearly your hand up to let him stop and say where to get out. It costs two strips per person.
There is always a pleasant and friendly atmosphere in this public transportation vehicle. You do however will be shaken up due to the many bridges and bumps along the route. Because of the daily metropolitan break ups and other obstructions the route is changing frequently, leaving some customers standing along the long Prinsengracht.
Once Amsterdam administrators will make the term "Venice of the North" come true by introducing the "Opstapper along the water". This will end a lot of innercity-transportation-problems. However, the chance that that will happen is just as small as the chance of a safety use of the NoordZuidlijn in time.
Prestige comes before reliable use.

de opstapper

Keep in mind
Keep in mind that trams, buses and metro are only running until midnite. There are some uninviting night-buses who have stops in the Innercity. The haltetijden (departure times at tram/bus stops) of all the Amsterdam public transportation can be found on GVB.
The amount of pickpocketing and robberies in public transport (train and tram) is quite high, especially for a city who tries its best to keep up its tolerance and relaxed image. Be prepared, just for those moments when your mind is a bit woolly!

More info
on my transport links Amsterdam  and  Holland.



Taxi's are allowed to drive over the tramrail, and they do that fast! You don't haul a cab but instead you try to call one or go to one of the taxi stands. There are the drivers, in groups relaxed waiting for their fare or phonecall in their fancy mercedes and caprice. Maybe that's why their prices are three times higher than in New York? After the summer of 2001 the monopoly of the Amsterdam taxi company TCA is broken up, followed by an explosion of all kind of taxi's in the most profitable hours. Resulting in a honking chaos around the Leidseplein at nite. For trying to get this under control the ban on hauling a cab outside the taxi stands might come to an end, one time.

The taxi rank in front of Central Station is notorious: an abundance of hot-heated young drivers in costly bolides, not shun of launching threats or taking the long route. Short trips are flatly refused, during the nocturnal peak hours in the hele innercity . In juli 2005 a barrier was placed at the entrance of the taxi rank in front of Central Station try to control the huge flock of empty cabs. During the Sail manifestation one month later the situation got out of hand and the entire taxi rank was closed down by order of the traffic police, leaving Amsterdam visitors and their suitcases to fend for themselves. After deliberation a manned barrier has been placed to keep the taxidrivers somewhat under control, with surveillants most of the time. However, Amsterdam is not able to ban this bad taxi service out of her Central Station square. Suspending someone's licence is a too radical measure. Shocking rates in unusual situations and the refusal of short rides still exist in January 2007. But nowadays it rarely happens that a surveillant is knocked over.

Late 2002 the bicycle taxi started riding in the Amsterdam streets on a trial base and was later on allowed to stay. With the steep Amsterdam bridges and narrow streets he is sometimes a cumbersome obstacle in the busy traffic.

Since 2003 bright yellow Ducati motorcycle taxi's riding in the town as sporty addition to the transport of passengers throuugh the busy and often clogged up streets in the innercity.

you don't smoke in a cab, only the driver does.
Stay polite, even when he is getting very rude.
Luggage left in a cab is simply gone. Needless to say that there are no "traintaxi's" in Amsterdam.

Take a look at centrum.amsterdam.nl

taxi barrier CS
manned barrier at
taxi rank Central Station

bike taxi
touristic bike taxi

motorcycle taxi
fast motorcycle taxi



Use of a car is being discouraged by paid parking in almost all of the city and especially in the center made rather expensive. The explanation on how to pay for a parking space makes it extra difficult (and is even mainly in Dutch), especially with the zero-tolerance and heavy fines towards non-payers. For them there is a bright yellow wheelclamp which will be removed after paying around f130. There are yearly more then 80.000 wheels been clamped this way in the city (Echo 29-09-1999). Sadly there is no pointsystem (do more, pay more) for the ones who find those yellow things only an annoyance to (their) society. Parking in parking garages is a good alternative, special the ones outside the center. The Arena Transferium in South-East is abit of a walk to get to the metro.

parking ticket machine

paid parking instructions
close-up file is 52Kb

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©keitje I'm not complaining , just explaining